Friday, September 01, 2006

Ironman Canada 2006 Race Report

If I have learned anything about long distance endurance events, it is simply that the day gives you what the day gives you. The sooner an athlete accepts that the better the event goes. Simply meaning always look forward in the event as you cannot change what has happened earlier in the event.

This was my second Ironman, and months ago I stated I would not do another Ironman after this. I want to continue to spread my wings and try other types of endurance events. After years of competing year after year as distance runner, I feel it is important to try as many things as I can just to say I did them. Ironman has been one of those things.

Last year I decided to do Ironman in July and felt ill-prepared but did respectable for a young woman of 43 by finishing in 11:26:54. This year I wanted to improve upon that goal and put in the work to do so. But as I said in my first paragraph things can sometimes go array. All in all, I am still happy with my performance and feel I gave it my all. Endurance events, in my view, are learning experiences. Some of you have heard me say that competing and the lessons it brings is just a way of filling up your toolbox with things you will have at your disposal for future competition or for life in general. I wish I understood that when I was in my 30s and competing at my best. Over the years, I have learned not to beat myself up about results (okay maybe only since I turned 40) as it is not what defines our existence. Okay I am being a bit philosophical. I am moving on.

My race report.

I was very relaxed prior to the event and race morning. When I arrived in transition, I prepared my bike and ensured everything was ready to go. I even spent time helping a couple of woman and men pump up their tires as they seemed to be really nervous and nothing seemed to be coming together for them. I then made my way to the swim start area to see the pros off. I wanted to wish Kyle and Lucy good luck. I did not see Lucy but was glad to see Kyle. Gave him a big hug and told him to rock. I have known Kyle for awhile and it has been a real treat for me to see him grow and become the individual he is. He truly is an honorable and humble competitor. He also had placed 4th, his highest finish at an Ironman. Kudos to Kyle!

Pros were off and now it was time for the age-groupers. I decided a couple of days before the race to start on the right side of the buoys as opposed to the left where I started last year. It just seems that everyone claims that starting on the left is better as they believe that they will not have as much traffic. Last year I got beat up pretty badly by starting on the left. So I moved to the far right. With me were some familiar faces and really fast swimmers. But hardly anyone compared to the crowd on the left. My decision was good as I had a clear path right beside the buoys the whole first length of the triangle. Going around the houseboat for the top of the triangle was a little crowded but coming back for the last leg was again smooth. It seems that more people swim further away from the buoys. In case any of you plan to do Ironman, you may want to make a note of that. My swim time was faster than last year and I posted a 1:17:48. A solid swim for me. My view anything faster than last year would be a bonus. I plan on working even harder on my swimming than I did this last season. I need to conquer this swim thing. I also know that most likely all the work I did this season will have its impact next season. Thanks to Colin for all his work with me. I know I am a much better swimmer technically than I was before.

Out of the water and into transition. My transition was smooth and took me around two and half minutes. The bike course was a little different this year with a couple of sections changing up a bit. But nothing major. Last year I was a bit conservative on the course leading up to the rollers and summit of Richter’s pass. I decided not to hold back on this part of the course this year. With my new bike, which really loves to go fast on the flats, I had a rockin’ time on the flat to Osoyoos. Maybe doing a 40 km time trial personal best is not a good thing when you have 140 km more to go and the course begins to get hilly! Oh well. When I hit Richter, I was feeling good. I spun my way up Richter and moved along quite nicely. Kept hearing Jennifer’s voice telling me to ease up on the gears and Rob voice telling me to be honest with myself and not use an easier gear than necessary! Steve King was at the summit of Richter announcing and it is always great to hear what he is going to say about you when you go by. For me, it just makes me go harder. There were lots of familiar faces at the top of Richter cheering when I went passed. There seemed to be a lot more people on the course than last year.

In no time at all, I was at the out and back. The out seems to drag on but the back seems to go very quickly. Before I knew it I was climbing the summit to Yellow Lake. I remember last year this climb seemed really tough. This year it was a piece of cake. When I finished, I was certain that I had not done the climb yet. But I must have as the long and fast descent started. Last year on the descent I was a bit nervous. This year, thanks to many long bikes with Rob and him teaching me something new every time I got on my bike for a ride with him, I held nothing back on the descent. Rob is truly the best darn cyclist I know and great teacher and friend! Plus he is a lot of fun to ride with. Always full of surprises like taking you on 220 km rides when you only had planned on doing 180 km! Thanks for that Rob!

The ride back to Penticton is fast and a lot of fun. Along the out and back my chain fell off twice for some reason but oh well I dealt with it and moved on. At the turnaround on the out and back a guy right behind me wiped out for following too close. He came up to me later and said that he almost took me down with him but managed to break quick enough only to take himself out. So the gesture of pumping of other people’s tires in transition favor came back to grant me a favor here! My back caused me some grief after Yellow Lake, but I think everyone has some type of problem by that point. After all, it has been 5 hours on the bike!

I felt my nutrition was well planned. Last year I had some stomach issues. This year all was fine with the stomach and hydration. I could not wait to start running. My feet were numb on the bike which has not happened before so I spent the last part of the ride wiggling my toes to get my feeling back. When I got to transition all seemed fine but I really wanted my bike shoes off. Bike time was 5:48:18. Again my transition was just over 2 minutes.

Started to run and everything was fine. At about 5 km my feet were on fire. It felt like I was running on a hotbed of coals. This has only ever happened to me on the track. I struggled both mentally and physically. I tried to put it out of my mind but crap it was painful. Then just before the journey down to OK Falls, I see a lawn chair empty. I asked this lady if I could borrow the chair for a minute. I sat down and took my shoes off to figure out what was wrong. This breeze on my feet seemed to help. I sat there for a few minutes until the burning went away. It helped and I was on my way. The burn came back here and there, but I managed. I had planned on having a great run and I felt like I was running a good pace and was passing a lot of people. But in reality, I was only putting one foot in front of the other as when I looked at my pace I was struggling to run anything under 8:30 per mile. I vowed not to walk and for the most part I did not. I would walk a bit through the aid stations but that was it. I also helped a couple of guys along the way who were really bonking. Shared my salt tablets with them as I had carried enough for the run and bike on the bike and had some in my run transition bag just in case I dropped my container on the bike. So I had plenty. I also had to convince some woman who was going to drop out to finish even if she had to walk. A friend of hers on a bike came by and ensured that would happen so I continued on. Having dropped out of races as a distance runner, I know that it is easier to accept a sub-par performance (in our own eyes) than to deal with not finishing an event after spending months and months training. Not to mention having to explain to people why we abandon. My view is finish unless you are putting your health at risk or have an injury.

Like last year, my run was not where I felt it should be. I would have loved to have had a great run but it just did not happen. My time was 4:17:06. A bit disappointing for me as running is my thing. But I accept the time and what the day gave me. Final result 11:28:10.

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